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James V. Lacy

California’s big trove of GOP Presidential nomination delegates. Will they matter?

California will be sending 172 delegates of the total of 2,470 delegates that will be credentialed at the next Republican National Convention July 18-21 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Since the days of Ronald Reagan, California has become a reliably “blue” state in Presidential elections, which has caused its percentage share of delegates to the GOP national convention to shrink, in comparison to reliably “red” states like Texas.  This is because the Republican party rewards states that reliably vote Republican with a few extra delegates.  When I attended the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City as a delegate for Ronald Reagan, California had more influence on the process, but still not quite enough alone to propel Reagan to the nomination in THAT election.  Nevertheless, today California’s shear size, plus its status as an essentially “winner-take-all” primary state, mean that even as a “blue” state in the Fall, its’ total delegate count is still equal to about 14% of the delegates needed to win the nomination in Cleveland.  (The “magic number” is 1,236.) That is a large slug of delegates, particularly if the nomination is either still up for grabs, or for a still-challenged winning nominee who wants to strengthen their position at the convention.

In most election years California’s voters don’t have any meaningful say in the presidential primary selection process of their political parties, thanks to the California Legislature’s late primary election schedule.  But this election, California’s GOP voters have a potential to impact the nominee, should the selection process still be uncertain by early June.  Indeed, on June 7, the final total of 303 delegates to the convention will be selected, comprising 24.5% of the votes needed to win the nomination, not only in California, but also in primaries in New Jersey (51 delegates), Montana (27 delegates), New Mexico (24 delegates), and South Dakota (29 delegates).  June 7 could become a “do-or-die” deciding day if the field of candidates is not significantly narrowed by then.